By Matthew Miller
MYTILENE, Greece — Claims of pet cats killed, skinned and eaten. Residents assaulted with knives. A fire that burned fields and farms.
These are all problems created by migrants, according to residents near the notorious refugee camp of Moria.
On Sunday, the elected leader of the nearby village of Moria, Nick Trackellis, launched a hunger strike. Trackellis, whose official title is village president, is now on day three of the strike, on view to the public in front of the Aegean Ministry. He calls it a final attempt to force Greek government officials in Athens to act on these concerns.
Flanked a dozen or so female supporters and signs describing his cause, Trackellis is protesting the overcrowding of Moria camp on the island of Lesbos, which holds more than 7,000 people despite being set up for just 1,000. The protestors argue that they’ve helped refugees for three years, but the crime and problems in the surrounding towns caused by migrants have become overwhelming. Trackellis and his supporters blame these issues on the Greek government, Turkey and the European Union. Claiming nobody has listened to their complaints, they describe the hunger strike as their last resort.
On June 24, a fire burned four acres of olive groves. Trackellis and his supporters claim the fire was an illegal cooking fire started by camp residents, and this destruction triggered Trackellis’s fast. In the past two weeks, local news accounts reported on allegations that three migrant women robbed a supermarket, a 25-year-old migrant attacked teenagers in two separate instances to rob them of their cell phones and a migrant attacked two foreigners with a knife. Anecdotes about the skinned cats could not be confirmed by deadline time, but all other accounts were verified on local news sites.
Anna Koukoulis, a supporter of Trackellis at the hunger strike, also alleged that citizens of Lesbos do not use beaches anymore because refugees leave trash behind, break the showers and swim in underwear rather then bathing suits. She also claimed that refugees have abused girls, broken into homes, and killed, skinned and ate household pets.
Koukoulis, a resident of Lesbos for 33 years, spoke for Trackellis at the hunger strike. “We want to help them, we do,” Koukoulis said of the migrants, while stressing that island residents have been helping new arrivals for three years now, with no sign of relief.
The refugees in Moria camp “have nothing to do and that causes problems because they have no respect for government,” she said. “They’re not locked up, they’re free and they don’t respect rules.” She added that residents weren’t complaining about all refugees, just the “half” that didn’t follow the rules.
“They want their freedom and they’re stuck here and we can’t do anything about it.”
Neighbors of the Moria camp have already taken action. Little cottages in the quaint village are surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by dogs.
Trackellis said he hoped that his hunger strike finally prompts the Greek government to take action and deliver on its promises. Protestors want Greece and the European Union to honor their pledge to reduce the number of migrants in the camp. Trackellis seeks to meet with officials from Athens, but in the meantime he continues his strike outside the Aegean Ministry, surrounded by female supporters and responding to passing cars honking or drivers shouting their support. As other supporters nodded in agreement, Koukoulis said, “Hopefully the hunger strike might get (the Greek government) to look in. Maybe.”